Maria Oliva and her son Danny's journey began on the streets.
Transitioning through the was this family’s first step toward a new life. Maria and Danny became part of the Imagine LA program, an innovative, hands-on, long-term solution to family homelessness. Now, after two years of mentorship with Leo Baeck Temple, Maria and Danny are graduating. They are no longer homeless.
Maria works at Marie Callenders in West Los Angeles and is enrolled at Los Angeles City College.
She credits herself and her Leo Baeck Temple partners with her many great accomplishments.
“I have an apartment, I have a job, I’m going to school to become either a social worker or a nurse. I learned to drive and have my own car. Danny is in school and he just won an award for being respectful. I am very happy and very proud.”
Leo Baeck Temple and the Imagine LA brass recently came out to celebrate with Maria and Danny, 7, and all those who contributed to their success.
“What we do is match each homeless family with one faith community in such a way that the homeless family exits homelessness permanently,” said Jill Bauman, president and CEO of Imagine LA. “We partner with churches, synagogues and mosques to help the family achieve self-sufficiency, long-term housing, and a productive life where their children can thrive.”
Leo Baeck Temple is one faith partner making this happen.
“We made a pledge two years ago to enable a homeless family to find a better way of life. That family was Maria and her son Danny,” said Scott Sale, chair of Leo Baeck Temple’s HEAL (Homelessness Ends At Leo Baeck) Task Force and Imagine LA board member. “The program works.”
In addition to fiscal and life skills support, members of Leo Baeck Temple contributed furniture, kitchen utensils, a refrigerator, lamps, tables and chairs to help furnish an apartment for Maria and Danny. This was LBT’s first step in guiding them.
“I helped Maria learn to drive and helped her set up a budget that she vows to maintain.” said Glenn Gottleib, LBT member.
Laurel Davidson organized the Jan. 30 graduation celebration for the Oliva family, LBT Homelessness Task Force and the Imagine LA team. “We furnished Maria’s apartment. It was an amazing experience to help them like this.”
Rabbi Rachel TImoner said that “it’s been a beautiful partnership with Maria and Danny and today is actually a bittersweet day for us. We’re going to miss them now that Maria and Danny are off doing successful, wonderful things. We’ve gotten so much out of knowing them, watching them, and helping them on their journey.”
“My children took Danny under their wings,” Larry Sterling, LBT member said.
Imagine LA focuses on the Los Angeles County homeless family population, which is growing at an alarming rate, 35% in the last year alone.
Currently there are nearly 8,000 homeless families with over 18,000 children in Los Angeles. Bauman said that there are 8,000 faith communities that are potential partners for helping these vetted families achieve a productive life off the street.
“We are ready to partner with another family,” said Sale. “Our task force is ready to go.”